The Wall Street Journal: 'Gay Conversion' Ban Sought in New York

Brad Hoylman

January 16, 2014

January 14, 2014 : By Mike Vilensky 

ALBANY—Gay-rights advocates and their legislative allies are making a push this year to ban so-called gay conversion therapy in New York, in hopes that a similar move by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie provides momentum.

"Gay conversion therapy" refers to efforts by mental-health professionals to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual through psychological treatment sessions.

The practice is banned for minors in California and New Jersey and has been condemned by the American Psychiatric Association. Opposition to the bans has been strong in some evangelical Christian communities.

A bill attempting to ban the practice for minors in New York was proposed last year by state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, but it didn't get a vote. Mr. Hoylman has reintroduced his bill with amendments.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, condemned the practice, but didn't comment specifically on the bill. "Gay conversion therapy is a discredited and outrageous practice that has no place in New York," a Cuomo spokesman said.

The bill could have a difficult path in the state Senate, where Republicans share power with a breakaway faction of Democrats. Sen. Jeff Klein, the Bronx Democrat who is co-leader of the Senate, said he supports banning gay-conversion therapy.

His Republican counterpart, Dean Skelos of Long Island, didn't respond to requests for comment.

Through a spokesman, Mr. Klein told The Journal: "This is a despicable practice that has no place in modern society. To suggest that anyone should be subjected to this is insulting."

The bill's backers say they believe the legislation may appeal to Republicans this time around, because of Mr. Christie's support. The advocacy group Empire State Pride Agenda on Monday began a campaign promoting the proposed ban. "I'm hopeful that the issue will attract the same bipartisan support it has in other states," said Mr. Hoylman.

Lobbying against the ban is the Rev. Jason McGuire, president of New Yorker's Family Research Foundation, who advocates for evangelical churches. He said undergoing efforts to alter sexual orientation or gender identity should be "a personal decision" for minors and their parents.

"When we talk about an issue like abortion, we are saying a minor can make that decision," he said. "Why are we now saying a minor cannot make this one?"

The only openly gay New York senator, Mr. Hoylman said this is a personal battle for him, and that he "feel[s] a responsibility" to end the practice.